SXSW certainly isn’t for everyone– the crowds, the queues, the lack of available cabs, sure to leave any New Yorker squirming– but really, there’s no better place for discovering a whole lot of great music in not a whole lot of time. While the warm(ish) Texas weather was definitely a major selling point, the ultimate goal for yours truly (plus one talented photographer pal), was to catch as many bands as humanly possible. Despite the dark cloud of an early, unexpected tragedy (luckily, we were both fast asleep at the time of the accident), the festival re-gained its momentum. Over the course of four booze-and-BBQ fueled days, we criss-crossed Austin in search of some familiar faces. Here’s what we found.
As usual, Brooklyn was well represented at this year’s SXSW, so it wasn’t too surprising when we ran into friends from all over the borough (though it was strange seeing everyone minus their winter coats). From tiny, taxidermy-lined bars to spacious outdoor venues, collecting a list of the best Brooklyn bands SXSW had to offer wasn’t such a difficult task. Choosing just one type of breakfast taco? Now that’s a real Texas- sized predicament.
From the get-go, East Austin’s spectacularly divey Longbranch Inn was a home away from home for countless New York bands. Local acts that graced the bar’s perfectly compact stage included Big Ups, Ava Luna, and Palehound. On the same night, both Slothrust and Habibi left major impressions; while the former produced an infectiously sludgy, blues-inspired punk set (plus an epic Black Sabbath cover), Habibi’s charming garage-pop offered a completely different, refreshingly retro vibe. By the time the crowd began twisting, shouting, and cutting a collective rug, we wondered whether we might be in Austin or at Arnold’s. The jams were hard to beat, admittedly, but the Longbranch’s four-dollar gin and tonics came pretty close.
On the opposite end of the sonic spectrum was Yvette, the bold Brooklyn industrialists that slayed downtown’s Beerland into the wee hours of the night. The duo delivered a tension-filled set highlighted by frantic, feral drumming and intense rhythms pitted against moments of near silence. The next afternoon (or perhaps it was the next evening? Empty Lone Star cans were our only benchmarks of time) we caught Bushwick’s Total Slacker at the Sailor Jerry House at Gypsy Lounge. After miles of hoofing around town, the band’s super shreddy, high-energy tunes were just what the doctor ordered. That, and plenty of tequila shots.